As last gasps of daylight go, you won't find many more awe-inspiring and memorable than those that happen over wide expanses of water. Fortunately, being on the shoreline of the Salish Sea (the Mountain City Sea identity is starting to make more sense now, huh?) we've got plenty of those, and here are the five we're willing to share for free.
1. Sunnyside Beach Park (Steilacoom, Washington)
With 1,400 feet of shoreline, you'll see the sun drop behind McNeil and Anderson Islands, slowly creating a silhouette below, and if there's even a hint of sun-catching clouds, you'll see them blow up in purples and blues before the sun fades.
2. Chambers Creek Regional Park (University Place, Washington)
What a difference a little elevation makes. Sunsets from beaches are often incredible (or cliche for a reason), but the tiny Chambers Creek Bridge that leads from the Chambers Bay Loop Trail to the small beachfront looking out on Fox, Anderson, and McNeil Islands gives that extra few feet of oomph to the view that really makes me question why I prefer sunrises.
3. Titlow Beach (Tacoma, Washington)
Titlow Beach is the park equivalent of the improv exercise called "Yes, And..." Does it have view of the water? Yes, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Can you see Fox Island? Yes, and Kitsap Peninsula. Can you watch kayakers catching the last rays of sun? Yes, and sometimes small planes landing at the Narrows Airport across the water. Are there cool old pylons from a long-forgotten pier? Yes, and sometimes artists put weird, seasonal things on them (pumpkins, letters, graduation signs, Santa hats).
4. Fireman Park / Firefighters Park (Tacoma, Washington)
What? An epic, non-beach-based sunset viewpoint in a shoreline-bound destination? Yes. And yes. Fireman's Park is just a tiny wedge of grass that some would argue doesn't deserve the moniker "park." But this sunset view is all about composition. On a clear day from Fireman's Park - and we're talking sparkling clear - the alpenglow lights up Mount Rainier in orange and purple finery, and the mountain appears magically dead-center of the Murray Morgan Bridge. Come for the sense of wonder. Stay for the sense of place.
5. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Viewpoint (Tacoma, Washington)
This is another shot where a man-made structure (and yes, it's another bridge) lends a gritty, manufactured dimension to nature's colorful bounty. But it's not in a park, or any officially designated public space. It's just along a road (click here for map), but the view down on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from above can't be beat when the sky is luminous pink and peach, with the sun falling fast.
Bonus: Mount Rainier
I hesitate to even include Mount Rainier here, because when you're so close to the mountain that you have to crane your neck to look up, it's almost not even fair. But for what it's worth, this is the sunset at from Sunrise Visitor Center. Sunrise isn't just a one-trick pony.